04/27/2006, 00.00
NEPAL
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Maoists declare ceasefire, peace and stability closer at hand

by Prakash Dubey
In a press briefing, Maoist rebels announce a unilateral three-month ceasefire to allow constituent assembly to meet.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepal seems to be moving towards pace, stability and democracy. Last night Maoist rebels announced a unilateral ceasefire despite their previous criticism of the agreement between the king and the seven-party opposition alliance. This "is indeed the most striking milestone on the road leading to peace and stability in the country," Norbert Rai, a lawyer and human rights activist, said.

The ball started rolling on April 24 when King Gyanendra announced parliament would be restored and called on octogenarian Girja Prasad Koirala to take the post of prime minister after his name was put forth by the opposition.

The new government will organise elections to a constituent assembly tasked to "rewrite the 1990 constitution and remove its flaws," Rai said. "Although the monarchy will be maintained, there will be no repeat of what happened in February 2005" when the king assume complete control, he stressed.

Ashok Tharu, a tribal rights activist, told AsiaNews that "yesterday's statement was welcomed by the population. Now the priority is to write a constitution that can lead to the coexistence of monarchy, Maoists and political parties, but especially create jobs and wealth for the population. Otherwise the country will go through serious troubles again."

In a press briefing the rebel leader said yesterday that "our party once more announces a unilateral ceasefire for three months starting now to facilitate the people's struggle for a democratic assembly and republic, to lead the struggle to an historic conclusion and encourage parliament to set up a constituent assembly free from pressures."

Speaking to AsiaNews, Sushil Shashank, a political analyst, said that the "Maoists had almost no choice. They realised that under present circumstances obstinacy would have had a boomerang effect. People are no longer willing to bear greater misery on behalf of the struggle for democracy."

"It is also likely," he added, "that Indian diplomats convinced the Maoists to accept a ceasefire; otherwise, they would have lost India's patronage since New Delhi is in favour of the agreement between the king and the opposition. Without it the king himself would not have bowed to pressures and democracy, which seems so near now, would have remained a mirage."

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